Robert Lamoureux | Safety first when making roof repairs

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux

Question No. 1


I’ll be going onto my roof for roofing maintenance, and am getting conflicting information on which product to use for this. Times are tight with me being out of work for a while, so I need to do this myself versus hiring a contractor for it. Will you clear up the confusion on products please, and offer any additional advice you have for a novice to perform this work properly? 

Additionally, I’ve promised my very worried wife that I would inquire with you about safety. She knows I am new to this and is very concerned about my safety on the roof. 

Thank you, sir, for any information you are able to share and for the help you consistently offer to others. 

— Randy S. 

Answer No. 1 


Let’s start with safety first: ladder safety. Find a place with stable ground, first and foremost. Grass is not stable, especially at this time of year when moisture is present. You could just begin ascending the ladder and it could slip due to moisture or the texture of the lawn being soft.

Choose an area of concrete even if it means that you have to lean the ladder against a gutter. In that case, put a piece of 2×4 the width of your ladder, just inside the gutter to give it stability against the weight of yourself and the ladder. 

Inspect the ladder, checking for rubber feet in good condition and no cracking or visible damage. Choose a ladder that reaches well above the roof line, minimum 3 feet so you have a handhold once you are above the roof line. Anything less than this will create a more unstable situation, especially when you are ready to descend. Reaching down lower than the 3 feet is cause for accidents to happen, as your center of gravity is less without a proper handhold. 

Wear proper shoes, preferably a pair with a non-slip sole. When you are ascending and descending, have a second person present to simply wedge their foot against the ladder foot, for additional resistance from slipping. 

Now on to product discussion; this part is easy, purchase a gallon of Henry 208. This is a very thick, goopy roofing repair mastic, which will seal any cracks and help prevent water from entering. 

While you are shopping, get a can of spray paint the color of your roof, you’ll use this after the mastic has set. The basic task with the mastic is to cover all possible water entry points, such as cracked roofing tiles that you may not be in a position to replace at this time; flashing details, such as those which connect a chimney to the roof; the point at which a pipe comes out of the roof; and any other areas where connections or penetrations are present. 

If your roof is a bit older, you’ll likely see where this same work has been done previously, and where the mastic has cracked from the sun. Concentrate there and be detailed about looking for other possible points of entry for water. 

I recommend using a thick pair of kitchen gloves and applying the mastic lightly to any area that looks like a possible entry point for water. 

You definitely don’t want to overdo it, just enough to seal the area. 

If you see missing tiles, consider replacing them non-optional. Any time there is a missing tile it is an absolute invitation for water to find its way to even the slightest pinhole below, so replace them and give that added layer of protection. 

Perform cleanup tasks, then go back up with the paint and cover the newly applied mastic with the paint so that your maintenance is less visible. This is for aesthetics only, but it does make a difference so is recommended. 

Be safe and good luck.

— Robert

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].

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